A pop music radio show for people who already know plenty about pop music, hosted by Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber and heard every Friday night from 10 to midnight on 90.3 KFAI-FM, Minneapolis, and KFAI.org.
This week's "Crap From The Past" is dedicated to Dr. Katie Bouman and the technical team that worked with her to produce the world's first image of a black hole and its event horizon. From my optics-centric point of view, I believe that the genius of this project is using data from multiple telescopes scattered around the globe. For a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we can assume that the resolving power of a telescope scales with the size of the telescope's aperture. The larger the aperture, the better the resolution. Using data from all over the planet can allow the aperture size to effectively be the diameter of the earth. To show the increase in resolution in this technique, compared to what's available from a single telescope, we can divide the diameter of earth (7917.5 miles) by the diameter of the largest telescope on earth (34 feet, for the Gran Telescopio Canarias) to give a factor of about 1.2 million! By being able to resolve a distant object about a millionth of the size of what our largest single telescope can see, Dr. Bouman and her team were able to resolve a black hole and its event horizon. It's simply amazing. And I believe it has the potential to revolutionize how we observe very small, very distant objects (e.g., by using data from many telescopes that are spread apart across the planet, rather than one big telescope.) Yay, science!